Breanna Stewart, Liberty dominate Caitlin Clark, Fever in home opener to remain perfect on season

NEW YORK — Fans were lined up outside Barclays Center hours before the start of Saturday afternoon’s home opener hoping to see the Liberty stay undefeated on the season.

They didn’t have to wait long to realize this game was going to be another dominant Liberty performance on the way to a 3-0 start as they cheered the home team to a 91-80 win over Caitlin Clark and the Indiana Fever.

Breanna Stewart fired from all angles and Betnijah Laney-Hamilton continued to be reliable on offense while also hounding opposing guards. Stewart led the way with 24 points and five rebounds. Laney-Hamilton contributed 13 points and four assists.

While Liberty head coach Sandy Brondello instructed her team to push the pace, Indiana tried to match the speed. It paid dividends for the Liberty, who cruised to victory with the entire starting five scoring in double digits and recording at least two assists.

The Liberty’s recent dominance against the overmatched Fever continued in the home opener. And the perimeter defense picked up right where Brondello’s team left off in Thursday’s blowout victory.

All eyes were on Indiana’s focal point on offense: Clark.

At times, her screens led to multiple defenders face guarding her 30 feet away from the basket. She found success splitting the defense, which led to 15 points (6-of-9 shooting) and four assists by halftime. But she continued to show her youth with five turnovers in the first half while facing pressure from Laney-Hamilton and rotating teammates. She posted her best stat line of her early career, but it wasn’t good enough to erase eight turnovers: 22 points, eight assists and six rebounds.

The turnovers and consistent stops gave the Liberty a double-digit lead early which eventually ballooned to 20 at the half. After Thursday’s win, Stewart previously said she likes to push pace in transition against the Fever due to their bigs being camped in the paint “a lot.” The same trend continued as the Liberty outscored the Fever 19-2 in fast-break points in the first half. The Liberty eventually won the fast-break points battle, 26-2.

Jonquel Jones — again — won the battle against Indiana’s rising star Aliyah Boston. Jones hit both of her treys and played her role as an anchor down low while finishing with 14 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and one block. Boston shot 5 for 10 while recording 12 points and seven rebounds.

Indiana won the third quarter, 21-16, but still trailed by 15 going into the final period. Fans stuck around to get a look at Clark, who played her first WNBA game at Barclays Center Saturday. She got a few of her deep patented treys to fall, but it meant little as the Fever fell to 0-3 on the season.